Enough of the B.S. – here is my REAL story of the deaths in my life
(While I’m updating my story and message here is an updated photo too)
As one of my good friends would say “honesty call”…..
I’ve very recently had a huge realisation. I’ve been struggling to understand for ages why my energy is so low, why I don’t feel half as inspired as I would like to. OK, not even a quarter. Working with clients lights me up, inspires me more than I ever imagined possible in any work, and makes me feel like about the luckiest person in the world that I get to do this work. I feel so grateful I generally find myself in happy tears after most sessions. But outside of my client sessions it’s a different story. Talking about my work, blogging, doing my book (damn you book) have all felt like pulling teeth, wading through mud, etc, etc. You get my drift.
I finally admitted to myself what the trouble is. In client sessions I am honest, authentic and to the point. I don’t tip-toe around. I share my understanding clearly and guide someone to a new way of understanding their own experience. But outside of my sessions, in an effort to be ‘sensitive’ I guess, to not offend, to not be too confrontational or radical, I have been describing my work and experience in a very inauthentic way. If it has already seemed a little controversial and radical to you then you might want to brace yourself a little.
I have not been saying the things I really wanted to say. I have not been saying what is true to me. Wow has this been a lesson. Holding back from sharing what you truly believe is not just about the discomfort of not getting to say what you want. It might feel safe, but it’s false security because the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual drawbacks and sheer weight of this are huge. Trust me – it’s frikkin yuck.
So enough’s enough. I’m done.
Here is the real story of what my death experience looks like…..
Almost 7 years ago now my dad died. I was in Australia, he and my family were in New Zealand. I was flying home that day to spend time with my nana who was dying of cancer. As I stood outside my office with my suitcase, waiting for my taxi to Melbourne airport, looking forward to my holiday and to spending time with Nana, I returned my mum’s odd phone message only for her to tell me Dad had just died of a heart attack. He had no history of heart disease or serious problems.
And my world changed forever right there.
And that was only the beginning for my family. My nana almost died the day after dad’s funeral. She survived and lived another 4 months. But in that time we lost another 4 family members so that when Nana died she was the 6th death in 4 months for us.
My journey into grief started pretty normally and isn’t so different to other people’s. I went through one version or another of hell for a couple of years. People around me thought I was ‘handling’ it well. I’ve never been a big one for falling apart in public….and I was in pieces behind the scenes. My life felt like it stopped, like everything had stopped. And there were plenty of times I wanted my life to really truly finally stop. Yes I do mean what you think I mean.
I was paying for lots of help that didn’t help, thinking my life was kinda ruined, thinking I’d never totally get over all this, missing the people I’d lost, having some friends there and some not, wanting to escape it all (travel seemed one option, my own death was another), and dealing with one version or other of agony (emotional or physical mostly for me). Did I have it easy? Hell no.
But I found myself drawn on to keep looking for new and different help. Something in me knew there had to be more than this, this pain, this waiting, this idea that time would magically change something for me. Seriously, as if my dad would have wanted to end up as a painful memory, a regret, a life sentence for his daughter and his family. And I was very lucky to find my way eventually into teachings that introduced me to a totally different way of understanding and experiencing the deaths in my life….and then into the work I am now so damn blessed to do.
Now I do apologise if you’ve heard that part of my story once or twice (or 20 times) before. That’s how I have always told it. That’s how it was. It’s the next bit I’ve been a bit vague and wishy-washy about.
I talk about being pain-free, and I mean totally pain-free, around my dad and his death and all the other deaths. And I am. But I can no longer talk about being pain-free without saying why I am. I never set out to become so, and to be honest that was just a by-product. Robert A. Neimeyer said “highly individual processes of meaning making are at the heart of grief dynamics.” He is absolutely right. Our experience of death, our grief, is about the meanings that it all holds for us, the meanings we give every part of it. I didn’t set out to get rid of, dissolve, heal, cope with, manage (insert any other words you like here) my painful emotions. I set out to make it different and to get my dad back, and what I ended up doing was changing the meaning of what had happened. I learnt to look for and understand the elements of grief that nobody acknowledges or speaks about. And what I found blew me away and changed my life forever. And the painful part of grief left me completely.
If that’s still all a little unclear I’ll just lay it all out…
Here is the truth I barely tell, the reason I love my work so much, and the reason that I am pain-free. Here is the crux of what I’m on about here.
The deaths in my family were the worst thing that had ever happened to me. At the time. Where my search took me was to a place where they are now the most profound, important, and meaningful events of my life. I do not regret them. I would not undo a second of them – not for anything in the world. And when I think about every aspect of my dad’s life, including his death, I smile. Rather than dishonour him at all, this has brought huge meaning to his life and his death for me. I see him, experience him, and remember him in a way that, unfortunately so far, few get to experience.
Grief to me is not just about pain. Sure that was part of it. That was all there was initially – I had no-one back then to help me find a different meaning. And if you don’t know any different then that is all there will be, to one degree or another. When I look on it now my full grief experience was a journey to find meaning, purpose, beauty and truth in one of life’s biggest lessons – death. It was the most powerful, life-affirming and inspiring thing I have ever been through….which means that when people tell me they are sorry for my loss, look horrified at my story, or try to say that surely I must still be in some pain (“no need to be so strong Kristie”) I don’t know what to say…..as I see it totally differently.
Grief for me has meant a journey that has ended in freedom from pain, a deep constant connection to my dad in a way I never imagined possible, and utter gratitude for the events of my life. As a good friend said recently “do you really want to live a life of regrets?” – because your regrets can be things that happened in your life, not just things you actively did or didn’t do. Are you living with regrets about a death in your life?
Like I said, my experience wasn’t different from anyone elses, it wasn’t easier, it wasn’t special. Before I found a different path I saw the experience of losing someone you love as only meaningless, random, painful, sad, something to avoid, something to live with, something to do your best to recover from. But I don’t now. This is not an experience unique to me. This is what I offer and what many, many clients have experienced, and their results continue to astound and inspire me. My newest and favourite example is a client I worked with last week who has had such a profoundly positive turn-around in how he feels that he told me he is still trying to figure out what mind-trick I played on him (believe me, I wish I knew some!). He just cannot believe that where he is now – without any pain, able to think about and talk about any aspect of his mum and her death with ease, and seeing this event in his life as totally different - was even possible.
If where I am now, this experience, this potential connection with the person you’ve lost, this process of new meaning-making, is something that appeals to or interests you in any way, then stick with me. It isn’t rocket science, it isn’t tricks to fool the brain. It doesn’t take weeks, months, or years. It doesn’t take endless talking about your pain or ways of releasing emotion. What it takes is a totally new way of thinking.
If, however, what I have written doesn’t resonate with or interest you and you’ve been following my blog or subscribed to me then please feel free to unsubscribe if that’s what you wish to do. Likewise if what you want is to find ways to cope with or manage pain then this is not what I offer. I’m not right for everyone and not every person is right for me. But I wish you well on your journey.
Soooo…assuming you are still here….I don’t know what things will look like from here on out – I do have some exciting plans that you’ll know about when the time comes – but I’ll be sharing a lot more of what you love about my work and a lot more of the more challenging stuff too. If you want change – I mean real, positive, eyes-wide open change – then that’s what I’ll give you.
And man do I feel a thousand times better for writing what I have really wanted to say all along! Thank you for listening. And thank you for bearing witness to my journey, whether you’ve been with me all along, or if this is the only message you’ll ever join me for.